Campus - 24.03.2023 - 11:30 

START Summit 2023: Starting a start-up in times of crisis

Even start-ups are not spared from crisis events. When faced with difficult times, many do not and should not let themselves be deterred from their entrepreneurial ideas - Adrian Locher from Merantix, Marc Bernegger and Tobias Reichmuth from Maximon as well as entrepreneur Alan Frei share their stories of struggles and success.

The dotcom bubble of 2000, the financial crisis of 2009, the war in Ukraine 2022 - crises can shake the world but also the world of start-ups. Nevertheless, breakthroughs are possible in difficult times. That's what four multiple founders talked about in the panel: Marc Bernegger, with his company "Maximon" for healthy aging and longevity together with Tobias Reichmuth and his team in 2021. Adrian Locher who is not only co-founder and CEO of Merantix, an AI platform, but is also a HSG alumnus and the president of the board of START Global. The panel was moderated by Swiss entrepreneur and advocate of a minimalist lifestyle Alan Frei. The, and Start-up Zentrum Zürich are part of his portfolio.

Network and passion as drivers

Getting people excited about a new topic is one of the big challenges in times of crisis, says Tobias Reichmuth. "Investors don't have problems with bad times, but trouble with uncertainty." Clear messages about why and for what the money is needed are helpful, he said. For Marc Bernegger, funding has become easier over time and thanks to many contacts. But with new projects, one also begins to think in larger dimensions, said Adrian Locher. A big plan needs significantly more funding. Winning the trust of investors in the same industry, however, is certainly easier the second time around. This could be called an "entrepreneurial dilemma," Tobias Reichmuth added. Staying in the same field all the time might be safer, but more boring, he said. Switching from cryptocurrency to longevity, for example, would in turn mean "starting the hard work all over again." On the positive side, however, he said, in times when market conditions are not favorable, there is less competitive pressure and investors with years of experience are aware of market cycles. As a result, the likelihood of reaching quality investors is even greater. Also, those members who actually feel a sense of belonging to the company remain on the team.

Alan Frei asked the founders how important networks are. Authentic relationships are always helpful. Especially in times of loneliness or being an outsider - when new ideas are being tinkered with - it becomes apparent who are the ones who stick with it. "Because then it's more about passion than hype," Marc Bernegger summarized. Alan Frei, on the other hand, prefers "me time" in times of stress. Getting away from stuff, meetings and events, and instead exercising and focusing on the really important things in life, said the entrepreneur, who is known for a minimalist lifestyle.

Healthy balance as a resource 

Serial founders should bring the following character traits, agreed the four panelists: optimism, vision, passion and not being afraid of failure. Several of their projects have failed over the years. Building trust in the start-up and in oneself as a founder requires radical transparency, says Tobias Reichmuth. An advisory board is also important. A founder needs to perceive himself as a resource - not to be too hard on himself and not only invest in the company, but also spend time with family and friends, Adrian Locher said. This refuels. Having friends outside the start-up with whom to share concerns is equally central, Tobias Reichmuth added.

To surf a wave in the long run, active steps are necessary, he said. "Follow your passion and do it now," the founders told the young entrepreneurs in closing.

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